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Diamond powder is a finely grained diamond that is often used to make drill bits and abrasives, and it acts as an alloying ingredient with metals. Diamond is one of the strongest known substances on Earth, making diamond dust popular for industrial purposes. Most mined diamonds and nearly all synthetic diamonds are turned into diamond dust because they are not bright or colorful enough to be valuable as gemstones. Although diamond powder is strong, it will wear out when used at high speeds in iron alloys.
Considered one of the strongest substances on Earth, diamonds are generally considered gemstones, but this is often not how most diamonds are used. When diamonds are mined, they are checked for color, clarity and brilliance to see if they are valuable as gemstones. Gem quality diamonds are professionally cut and polished; the rest is sent to refineries that pulverize it into diamond powder.
The majority of naturally mined diamonds – around 80 percent – are used for industrial purposes. Synthetic diamonds that mimic the strength of natural diamond can be created under high temperature and high pressure conditions. These synthetic diamonds are widely used to create diamond dust. About 80% to 90% of all industrial diamonds are synthetic because they are cheaper to buy and are rarely valued as gemstones because they are not created naturally.
Because it is so strong, one of the main uses of diamond dust is in creating abrasives. An abrasive is a substance, such as sandpaper, that is rubbed against another substance, such as wood, to wear away a few layers of the second substance. This makes the second substance smooth or coarse, depending on the abrasive design.
Another important use of diamond dust is in creating tools such as drill bits. To do this, powdered diamond is usually added to a puddle of molten metal, spreading diamond flecks all over the metal. When the metal is molded into a tool shape, the diamond dust will remain in the metal, making it stronger.
Although diamond is strong, diamond powder machining tools are not good when used against iron alloys at high speeds. This is because the high speed creates a reaction between the iron and the carbon in the diamond, making the carbon soluble in the iron. The result is that the diamond wears out very quickly, making it difficult to maintain.